The works of famous Jewish composers
have inspired the birth of a new tune and music video that will travel the
North Shore as a concert and a presentation.
Jukebox Groove, a product of the Terra Sounds
School of Muisc & Arts made possible by a grant from the Jewish United Fund,
began with the music of George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Benny Goodman, and
other great Jewish composers of the past. Aleks Romanenko, president and
co-founder of Terra Sounds, has long wanted to find a creative way to present iconic
works to the new generation.
“I love introducing my students to a wide
array of music, including the works that have really shaped me as a musician,”
says Romanenko, a recording artist also known by the name Aleks Di Roma and a
guitar instructor at the Glenview-based school and production
“My inspiration behind Jukebox Groove is simple – when I
first heard tunes like "Sing, Sing, Sing" and “Summertime,"
they sounded incredibly different from everything I've heard and they truly
changed my understanding and appreciation of music. Coincidentally, at that
time, I was about the same age as many of my students.”
Early last year, Romanenko was awarded the
Tikkun Fellowship grant, a new initiative JUF’s Russian Jewish Division (RJD) designed
to support projects that engage the community in meaningful and significant
ways. Jukebox Groove is Terra Sounds team effort; Romanenko is joined by
clarinetist and Terra Sounds co-founder and Head of Audio Production Matvey
Kostukovsky, as well as other talented instructors and prominent Chicago-based musicians
such as saxophonist Doug Rosenberg, trumpeter James Davis, and percussionist
Dane Crozier. Video work was completed by Columbia College of Chicago graduate and cinematographer Sargon Saadi.
Our motivation was to showcase quotes from famous works
such as ‘Bei Mir Bistu Shein’ and ‘Somewhere’ in a whole new way, so they
would be more relevant for kids today,” said Kostukovsky. “As the result, the
instrumentation, rhythm, and feel of these
well-known melodies are completely different from the way they were done
The track features an array of music genres,
grooves, and sounds that are more prevalent in today’s pop music culture, yet
with a strong improvisational nature of modern jazz. The quote from “Sing, Sing,
Sing,” for example, is a traditional clarinet swing piece, but Jukebox Groove
presents it as a reggae tune featuring the flute.
What also unites the pieces quoted in the
track is that each of the featured Jewish composers has an Eastern European
background. Gershwin, Bernstein, and Goodman all came from a similar cultural
origin and relative region of the world. Sholom Secunda, the composer of the
famous “Bei Mir Bistu Shein,” was originally from Oleksandriya, a small city
about an hour away from Romanenko’s home town.
Similarly, another melody featured in the
track pays a special tribute to the rich klezmer culture of Ukraine.
“The tune, literally entitled “The Fried
Chicklet” [in translation] is truly a part of my childhood, and is instantly
recognizable by several generations of Ukrainian decent and far beyond,” Romanenko
said. The composer is unknown, but the original lyrics are attributed to the
famous Kiev-born lyricist Yakov Davydov, and by the early 1920s this song had
become a standard in the repertoire of legendary Odessa-based klezmer
musicians. Later, it was quoted by Dmitry Shostakovich, and ironically enough,
became best known as a children’s tune, despite the distinct political
connotation of its lyrics.
In conjunction with the upcoming holidays and May being Jewish
American Heritage Month, the Jukebox Groove Project will be presented at local
synagogues, libraries, park districts, and cultural centers. Those interested
in having Jukebox Groove presented in their community should contact Terra Sounds School of Music & Arts.
“If we can get one kid to fall in love with the music of
Gershwin, Bernstein, or Benny Goodman, I will consider this project a huge
success,” Romanenko said.
Romanenko thanks JUF, Genia Kovelman of RJD, Genesis
Philanthropy Group, and Adam
Davis of the KFAR Jewish Arts Center for helping the project come alive, as well as the entire
creative community for all its support and inspiration.
information about the RJD’s Tikkun Fellowship visit www.juf.org/RJD. Watch the Jukebox Groove project here and downloadthe free track via the Terra Sounds homepage.